Missing children found hiding in car

Daytona Beach police launched full-scale search for kids

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Two children reported missing in Daytona Beach were found hiding inside a vehicle -- after police checked the car a third time.

Carson Tucker, 3, and Dakota Leonard, 4, who were reported missing around 1 p.m. Tuesday, were found safe about two hours later tucked under the front seats of a car that was parked behind their home, Daytona Beach police said.

The car had been searched two times by officers before the kids were discovered.  On the third search of the vehicle, an officer says he saw an eyeball peaking up at him from underneath the dashboard, according to police.

Daytona Beach police said the mother of one of the children left her house via the back door and returned about 10 to 15 minutes later.  She then discovered the front door ajar and the children were gone, police said.

"In those first couple of minutes when your kids are gone, that's when things are being done to them," said Dakota's mother, Kim.

The parents believe the children hid from their parents after being told they couldn't play outside.

"I believe they hid there to retaliate because I said no, because they weren't allowed to play out front by themselves," said Dakota's father Rick Leonard. "So I made them come in, and she did that to me and dragged the grandboy along."

Police were called to the same house in March in regard to a missing 6-year-old, who was eventually found in a closet after playing hide-and-seek.  Daytona Beach police said it's believed that the 6-year-old may have taught the younger children how to hide, too.

No charges will be filed against the parents, police said.

"I don't know if I could live with myself," said Kim Leonard.

"It's the worst feeling in the world," Rick Leonard continued. "Praise God they were found."

A full-scale search involving K-9s and helicopters was canceled after the children were found.

"It's policing 101.  When kids are missing, the first place you should search -- cover top to bottom -- is the perimeter of the house and everything in there," said Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood, who added that his team needs to perform better.  "There's 10 or 15 cars back there.  We have enough manpower not to be outsmarted by 3- and 4-year-olds."

Chitwood said the search cost the city and the county more than $100,000.

Chitwood told Local 6, "Rest assured, there will be paint off the ceiling when we get back to headquarters," saying he will be re-training officers after the incident.

Authorities initially told Local 6 News that the children were found asleep in the car.

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